“Selfish” Time Management

It may be time to redesign your life the way you’ve always wanted it to be rather than living a life someone else has chosen for you. – George Bernard Shaw

One of the hardest things for leaders today is managing their time. Not because today’s leaders are irresponsible or immature, but because they have to constantly sort out what things will create the biggest impact over those that are just the loudest or squeakiest issues. When I talk with leaders, it doesn’t matter what sector or the size of the business, they are simply overwhelmed.

Young businesswoman talking on the phone and using tablet comput

As Jim Collins would say, “Good is the enemy of great.” While I am probably good at time management, I am certainly not great at it. I spend too much time working on the weekends or right up to bedtime. Don’t get me wrong, there are always seasons of busyness, but the key is that you have to clearly define success indicators that are beyond just today. You have to regularly hold yourself and your team accountable to doing the things on your calendar that will help you achieve those goals. Here’s a good way of looking at it, if someone who didn’t know you took a look at your calendar, based on the meetings and appointments you have set, what would they think is most important to you? If they are totally off, then it might be time to either adjust your goals or adjust the way you are spending your time.

Leaders have to be selfish and protect their time, which isn’t natural because great leaders want to serve. “No” truly is the hardest word in a leader’s vocabulary. These are people who get joy and validation out of serving others, being with people and being part of success. This often means that leaders say “yes” way too much.

In my case, Cynthia Hernandez, who leads alongside me, and I have a spreadsheet that we discuss at the beginning of the year. It looks like a financial spreadsheet, but includes all of the things I have committed to the team, to our Board of Directors and to our customers over the course of the next year. Then, it defines the number of hours that I think it will take for me to do those things, including everything from internal meetings to international sales trips to making sure I set aside time to be at our daily scrum meetings each morning. This isn’t a quick process. It takes us about 5 to 6 meetings over the course of 2 weeks to get that time allocation set. Then, we meet regularly and look at the calendar to see what has worked in the past and look ahead to see if we are maximizing our time well in the future.

In a perfect world, I would allocate about 70% of the time to things that must get done, 20% of the time to the dream projects that are future facing and will make our organization awesome and 10% of the time for unexpected things that will inevitably pop up. I know that if I don’t leave that 10% gap in there that I will be running at an unsustainable pace.

The part of time management that most leaders forget is maximizing energy. For me, I’m better at financial projections with our accountants in the morning and saving creative projects for the afternoon or even evening. And I know my regularly scheduled team meetings should be on Tuesdays. These are the processes that work well for me.

Managing energy also goes back to being selfish. That word has a negative connotation, but it simply comes from the root of “self.” If I don’t take care of myself, I won’t be a great leader for others. That means I also have to make sure I am taking care of my physical well-being and personal things in my life that have to get done. I have to go to the doctor, get my hair cut, go to the dentist, etc. These are the first things to go when leaders get busy and it is more damaging than you might think (I’ll dive into this a little bit deeper in my next post).

If you are feeling overwhelmed or struggling with time management, you are not alone. But, you must be a big enough leader that you invest in coming up with a system that works for you. The best leaders are well-organized and refreshed. That energy trickles down through the organization and, ultimately, transforms good to great.

Always Forward.

Question: What are you doing to protect and manage your time? If you’ve got a great system in place, do you have team members you could help with their time management?

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